UVA New Music Ensemble


Instrumentation: Flute, Bb clarinet, tenor sax, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion
Duration: 9:45
Commission: newEar Ensemble
Premiere: 5/5/05
St. Joseph’s Church
Kansas City, MO

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Program Note:
Clave (2005, rev. 2008) is my response to the fantastic Afro-Cuban clave rhythms which I studied with noted drummer Robert Jospé. I was also inspired by the rhythmic grouping experiments of my husband, cognitive psychologist Michael Kubovy, who studies perceptual organization. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “clave” originally meant a “knotty stick” or a “key.” The current usage refers both to the pair of short wooden cylinders whose high pitch claps the beat and to the rhythmic patterns that propel the music. I love the way these off-kilter rhythms grab us physically and provide such perceptual delight. In this piece, I turn these patterns inside out and upside down, often inviting listeners to complete them. The OED’s definition of dance perfectly captures what I was aiming for: “…a rhythmical skipping and stepping…as an expression of joy, exultation, and the like.” Clave was commissioned by the Virginia Commission for the Arts for the New Ear Ensemble, who premiered it in Kansas City. I would like to thank both the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts for the wonderful residencies that supported this composition.–JS

Press Quote: 
“…“Judith Shatin’s …”Clave” sounds like a deconstructed West Side Story, capturing the tropical heat and playfulness of the bomba beat….” –Kansas City Star

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